Google Sees No Evil in Sharia App

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Google has received lots of deserved bad press for helping oppressive regimes like China's censor search results, but its questionable decisions don't end at licking the boots of tyrants. The company also puts its motto to the lie by helping little dictators in Indonesia report blasphemy to the government by means of an app called "Smart Pakem," which is available in its app store. The below quote, from Indonesia's National Secular Society, deserves wide circulation:

Screen shot.
Indonesia's blasphemy law is a morally unjustifiable tool of repression which should be repealed as soon as possible. While this law exists anyone who believes in free expression should make it as difficult as possible for the Indonesian government to enforce the law. Google has greatly benefited from the freedom to share information globally. We ask it and other multinational companies to consider whether they can in good conscience profit from the repression caused by governments' crackdowns on free speech.
According to Google Translate, pakem means "grip," which causes me to think of a pair of hands tightening around a neck. What a great metaphor for the horrible deed of abetting an assault on freedom of speech.

-- CAV

P.S. Irony alert: I also plugged smart pakem into Google Translate and got "smart standard" as a translation.


Legalized Election Theft in Cali

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Dick Morris explains how seven Republicans who -- as of election day -- had won congressional seats in California, "lost" them weeks later:

If you have a ballot lying around, he'll fix things for you. (Image via Wikipedia.)
California sends ballots to every voter before Election Day, whether they request it or not. All the voter needs to do is to fill in his choices and mail the form back.

But if the mail ballot is not received by Election Day, it can still be counted if a sealed, completed ballot is dropped off with elections officials by hand -- and the voter does not have to drop off their ballot in person.

In 2016, California Gov. Jerry Brown opened the door to fraud by signing a law allowing anyone to drop off a ballot for another person. This gave rise to a new practice known as "ballot harvesting," in which Democratic Party canvassers visited people who had not voted on Election Day and collected their mail-in ballots and turned them in on their behalf.

This year, a record 250,000 people voted by having someone else turn in their vote-by-mail ballots. [bold added]
I am stunned, even in this day and age, that this law is even on the books. (Neighboring Arizona actually has a law making it a felony for anyone but a postal worker, family member, or caregiver to turn in a ballot on behalf of someone else.)

It is clearly hopeless to change this law by legislative means in California, but it seems like something that shouldn't be necessary since this clearly violates the rights of voters. That said, a quick search shows no pending legal action against this law, although a site called Judicial Watch claims to be "investigating" the problem. (Posted there is a video, allegedly of a harvester in action. Quote from a partial transcript: "It's Lulu, I'm here to pick up your ballot. Yeah, we're offering this new service but only like, to people who are supporting the Democratic party.")

I hope this law and others like it are challenged in court and declared unconstitutional.

-- CAV


The Latest Assault on Freedom to Contract

Monday, December 10, 2018

"Progressive" politicians in New Jersey are citing "discrimination" as their excuse to violate the rights of businesses such as Amazon that wish to set up cashless stores. The state, along with several municipalities, is considering forcing essentially all brick-and-mortar stores to accept cash:

It is immoral to force anyone to keep piles of cash lying around, and impractical, if consumer interests really are a concern. (Image via Picabay.)
As technology gives consumers more ways to pay, including with their smartphones, some businesses have gone cashless to improve efficiency and reduce the risk of robbery, among other reasons.

But consumer advocates say cashless businesses effectively discriminate against poor customers who don't have access to credit or bank accounts, and seniors who aren't comfortable paying with plastic or digital devices. [bold added]
As with other improper, rights-violating measures (e.g., the minimum wage and "ban the box" laws) foisted on the public in the name of addressing "discrimination," this will also fail to achieve its alleged goal. Off the top of my head: Have these "consumer advocates" not heard of "food deserts" -- poor areas in cities that lack grocery stores? Cashless stores alone would not solve the problem, but it's conceivable that the ability to operate without mounds of cash on hand might make it safer enough for at least a few businesses to enter or start in such potential markets. And as for "the unbanked" not being able to pay, I am sure some enterprising soul could come up with a pre-paid way for many of them to use such stores, if that hasn't been implemented already. But that's not even the half of how ludicrous such proposals are. For that, we can start to see this from a report in the British Guardian:
I sat down to eat a curry I had bought (with old-fashioned cash) from another Hatch unit. Then, an Öl barman brought over a conciliatory glass of beer, on the house. I told him the bar's cash-free policy is elitist; who wants to be forced to put a pint on a credit card? He talked about time saved and how not having cash on the premises was safer for the staff. We politely agreed to disagree.

Relating this later, to Öl's co-owner David McCall, I find him irrepressibly upbeat, as if everything is going to plan: "We have probably given away 10 beers to people who didn't have cards -- and a few when Visa went down. But we would rather give you a free beer than give the bank five grand, and we want our staff to feel secure. On our second week, we were broken into [overnight] with sledgehammers. All they could take was one iPad."

McCall's Manchester coffee shop Takk takes cash. But opening Öl and a second Takk at the student-oriented Hatch was a chance to dispense with the £3,000- to £5,000-a-year in bank charges that the original Takk, like every business, incurs for depositing cash. "We pay above Living Wage [Foundation rates], but we want to pay our 25 staff more," says McCall. The savings made by going card-only will help with that. plastic or digital devices. [bold added]
First, nobody is forcing anyone buy anything. Second, guess who loses when their employer's costs increase? Or is it "elitist" to make entry-level employees accustomed to higher pay levels? Another report from the same paper underscores how absurd this idea is:
The smartest businesspeople I know don't need a state law telling them it makes the most business sense to accept all forms of payment.
(!)

If it's smart, why pass a law? And if we "need" a law (We don't, but still...), perhaps there's something we're missing. These points both come up even before we ask the following question: "By what right does the government force someone to accept any given form of payment?" One would imagine at least one of the sympathetic lefty reporters I'd read might appreciate the point: All dislike having to make payments in a certain way preferred by a businessman. And yet, I don't see any evidence that they do -- although I am sure none of these bloodhounds would appreciate being forced to receive their pay as cash. How hard is it to imagine that the businessman, a fellow human being, might likewise not appreciate being told what form of payment to accept? It is just as wrong for the government to tell a merchant he can't decide how he is to be paid as it would be for the government to tell all of us how to pay (or be paid), and for exactly the same reasons.

-- CAV


Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, December 07, 2018

Notable Commentary

"Read With Me is a free app I created (available for iPhone, Android, or as a web app) to put the classics, and my guidance through them, at anyone's fingertips." [format edits and more below -- ed] -- Lisa VanDamme, in "Read With Me: Crime and Punishment -- A Sneak Preview" at Medium.

"The real problem is not "Islamophobia", but Islamophilia, which is rampant in the West." -- Bosch Fawstin, in "I Became White After I Left Islam?" at FrontPage Magazine.

"Wealth creation is the answer to global warming." -- Raymond Niles, in "The Power of Compounding and the Power of Scaremongering" at Medium.

"[Trump's] dictatorial traits, displayed in his brutish coarseness, is prepping Americans for future dictatorship." -- Raymond Niles, in "Laying Down the Gauntlet of Dictatorship" at Medium.

In Further Detail

Every once in a while, my near-daily blogging routine turns up a real gem, and the app mentioned above appears to be one of them. Already wanting to resume my reading routine after our move, I will now have even more motivation to plow through all those boxes. I plan to install the app and pick a book.

Here is an excerpt from the Android app description linked above:
If I have a unique talent as a teacher of literature, it boils down to this: I am passionate about great books. Hugo wrenches my heart and makes me weep tears of anguish and of wonderment. Rostand stirs me to noble ambition in work and love and life. Tolstoy challenges me to think -- and to feel -- on planes higher than I had ever known. Ibsen, Dostoevsky, Balzac, Jane Austen, Maupassant, Rattigan, Sinclair Lewis -- all have helped me to see, in the words of English professor Mark Edmundson, "that life is bigger, sweeter, more tragic and intense -- more alive with meaning than I had thought." I derive profound personal joy from literature, and I have a knack for helping others do the same.

That is why I started Read With Me. I know so many people -- thoughtful, intelligent, motivated people -- who avoid reading the classics. And for understandable reasons: they're busy, they don't know what to read, they've never been taught how to enjoy it, they have unpleasant memories of tedious discussions in high school English ...
This sounds exciting and I am looking forward to this.

-- CAV


Thank You, Mr. Stossel

Thursday, December 06, 2018

In a recent column, John Stossel, discusses "The Creepy Line," a conservative documentary about leftist bias in social media companies. Fortuitously, he has his own war story of social media "censorship," which should serve as a lesson to anyone concerned about this problem. Stossel's war story comes to the following successful conclusion:

Image via Wikimedia.
We asked Google and Facebook to reply to accusations of censorship made by "The Creepy Line" and to explain why YouTube restricted my anti-socialism video but allows other videos that include violence. So far, they haven't replied to questions about bias, but right before this column's deadline, Google emailed us saying they will remove the age restriction on my video. Good. [bold added]
Contrast Stossel's response to what too many conservatives wrongly call "censorship" to the solution proposed by the film's writer, Peter Schweizer. Schweizer wants to address this problem by "[putting] them under the same shackles as other media companies."

Stossel correctly notes that this would place innovation in social media into the hands of bureaucrats. But that's not all it would do.  Schweizer and others are wrong to use the term censorship -- something only governments can do -- to refer to one company's wrongheaded exercise of its property rights. By doing so, he is providing an excuse to deny those property rights and effectively impose actual censorship à la the old Fairness Doctrine on us all -- not to mention opening up the possibility of government bureaucrats serving as (actual) censors. This is a cure far worse than the disease.

Many thanks to John Stossel for helping indicate the danger of conservative calls to regulate social media, and for demonstrating the proper way to respond: By publicly calling out such companies, while also standing up for free markets and freedom of speech.

-- CAV


How Many Things Are on Your Plate?

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Just before the mayhem of moving (with bonus mayhem, and not even counting the holidays) started -- I ran across an thought-provoking piece at Jean Moroney's site, Thinking Directions. Moroney reports on her decision to test, for a few weeks, a "Rule of Six" planning tactic expounded by Chet Holmes in The Ultimate Sales Machine. Moroney lists five findings from her test, and closes as follows:

Half a dozen is way too low a number for some kinds of tasks. (Image via Unsplash.)
The concrete lesson? Six is not a magic number, but the discipline of listing a set number of to-do's each day can boost your productivity.

The abstract lesson is more interesting. A productivity "rule" may sound arbitrary, but contain an important principle. You can find out the principle by experimenting with the rule, keeping your eyes open to see how it does or does not make your work more productive. [bold added]
I'd forgotten about this post until yesterday, and am glad I flagged it for later review. As I experiment with a new project before the holidays, part of my goal is to figure out how much of the kind of work I can actually fit into a day. Six tasks may be too low or too high, depending on how I divide or measure the work. But the point that it is useful to list goals each day is well taken: It's really the only way to begin learning whether one's planning is realistic.

-- CAV


A Centrally-Planned Inferno

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Writing at American Greatness, Edward Ring outlines how central planning by entrenched environmentalists set the stage for California's latest rash of deadly forest fires. The whole thing is worth a read, and correctly calls out the most consistent greens for wanting to "destroy industrial civilization." Here's a sample:

Image via Wikipedia.
"For decades," [investigative journalist Katy] Grimes notes, "traditional forest management was scientific and successful -- that is until ideological, preservationist zealots wormed their way into government and began the overhaul of sound federal forest management through abuse of the Endangered Species Act and the 're-wilding, no-use movement.'"
Although Ring unfortunately does not bring up the possibility of privatizing our forests and national parks, this is an opportune time to consider this long-range solution to the problem of widespread forest fires. I will not do so in depth now, but a few questions should show why I think so. Would the owner of a forest, valuing trees for whatever purpose, depart from proven best practices for managing his forest? Would he do so, knowing that nearby property owners damaged by such a decision, could sue him? Almost certainly not, on both counts, but people do have free will. And this leads to a final question: Without top-down planning, what would the chances be of widespread, entrenched mismanagement? Nil.

Although these questions indicate that privately-owned forests and parks would almost certainly have prevented the wide-scale forest mis-management that set California ablaze, we should remember that this is a benefit. The underlying reason we should privatize our forests is that running parks and forests is outside the proper scope of government in the first place.

-- CAV

Updates

Today: Fixed formatting error.